Once Upon A Tart — 70.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We wandered over to Soho’s Once Upon A Tart for a quick lunch early in the week. Once Upon A Tart consists of a coffee and bake shop in one space, and a small restaurant in the space next door.  Our review is limited to the restaurant.

About half of the tables were filled when we arrived.  There was music playing in the background–jazz standards–which was a bit loud at first, but the second song was much quieter.  Whether the volume was tolerable depended, in large part, on whether the song featured a horn section.  If yes, the sound bounced around the live space, if not, it was fine.  We aren’t sure but we suspect that the volume was lowered as the tables filled up.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There are five stools lining a bar and eight tables for two plus one larger table for about six in the restaurant.  Design choices result in a fairly live space: terrazzo floor, tin ceiling, glass windows  lining the front, and a couple of large mirrors on both side walls.  It didn’t help that the front door was open to street noise.  That said, Sullivan Street isn’t heavily trafficked so our meal wasn’t interrupted by loud sirens or insecure motorcyclists, but as the restaurant is located between Houston and Prince Streets we could hear the faint roar of the traffic from a half block away.

The reading also reflects the sound emanating from a fellow customer who talked on her phone the entire time.  She was so engrossed in conversation that she even ignored her meal.  Circumstances like that add to the soundscape, but they are arbitrary and, thankfully, not normal. Personally, we find it hard to fault the restaurant for this behavior, as it can be uncomfortable to ask a customer to refrain from cell phone use unless they have a very public policy against cell phone use (rare, but we spotted a sign asking customers to refrain from cell phone use at a downtown restaurant).

In the end, while the space was not calming or serene, it was tolerable.  Given that Once Upon A Tart is located in the thick of Soho, where there are very few reasonably priced eating options, it’s fine.

HOURS

Restaurant: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day

Coffee and Bake Shop:

Monday through Friday: 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. W. Houston and Prince Streets), New York, NY 10012

WEBSITE

Once Upon A Tart

French Louie — 70.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

French Louie was busier on a Tuesday lunch than one might expect for a restaurant on Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. It was more than half full when we arrived, and there was turnover during our visit.  Because we visited on the first really warm day of the year, it was no surprise that the back garden was open and mostly occupied.

We noticed that the front of the house, where the bar and a small dining area are located, was noisier than the back dining room where we sat. The bar runs the length of the front of French Louie.  It is flanked by a narrow dining area with smaller tables sharing a long banquette.  The dining space in the back is wider with more banquettes and some larger tables; it seats at least 20.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There is a glass wall at end on the indoor space, with French doors leading to garden.  Music was playing during our visit.  The volume  in the back dining area was fine, but the music was louder in the front by the bar.  Overall, the soundscape was perfectly fine for lunch.

That said, busier times will be louder, particularly during brunch or dinner as people are more likely to drink and in our experience people + booze = noise.  But since there is a nice-sized back garden, there should always be a relatively calm space available.  Among other things, the garden shares a fence with abutting residential properties.  That alone suggests the garden space will not be uncomfortably loud, lest the restaurant wants to incur the wrath of its neighbors.

We can recommend French Louie for lunch and feel fairly confident that a quiet option should be available during the milder weather months.  Busier times will be louder, but they should be tolerable.  If the indoor space is too loud for your tastes, ask for a garden table and enjoy the very good food and excellent service.

HOURS

Monday through Thursday: 11:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Friday: 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Saturday: 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Sunday: 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Three course prix fixe menu offered Monday evenings along with regular menu

LOCATION

320 Atlantic Avenue (betw. Smith and Hoyt Streets), Brooklyn, NY 11201

WEBSITE

French Louie

Rangoli — 67 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Rangoli is a moderately priced Indian restaurant located on the Upper East Side. We  stopped by for lunch after an appointment nearby.  Rangoli offers a very reasonable lunch special–50% off if you eat in and pay cash–a veritable bargain for the area.  Our meal was both inexpensive and very tasty.  If we lived or worked in the area, Rangoli would be on our regular rotation.

The front of the restaurant has a bar and small dining area that is somewhat separated from a larger back dining by a wooden column.  It’s not a true separation, but it does break up the space.  We were seated in the back dining area.  At the beginning of our visit, the room was absolutely quiet.  No surprise, as the place wasn’t that crowded–there were maybe five other tables occupied and many had only one patron. That said, two customers compensated for the lack of a lunch companion by talking on their phones the entire time they were eating. Yes, it was annoying, particularly since people tend to talk a bit louder on their phones than to a nearby companion, but it didn’t move the meter that much.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The flooring throughout the space is tiled, but tablecloths and upholstered booths and chairs probably helped to absorb or diffuse some of the sound.  Indian ballads played in the background, and while it was a hair louder than it needed to be, the decibel reading shows that the space was perfectly fine.

Overall, conversation is easy during a lunch visit, but we really can only guess as to what the soundscape is like during a busier period.  While Rangoli would no doubt be noticeably louder when packed, we found the staff to be very accommodating and think a request to lower the music volume would be satisfied.  At the minimum, it would be worthwhile to give Rangoli a try.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 11:00 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. 72nd and 73rd Streets), New York, NY 10021

WEBSITE

Rangoli Indian Cuisine

Dot & Line — 74.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Dot & Line is a new coffee shop in a coffee shop-poor part of Brooklyn, Boreum Hill.  We visited on a lazy Saturday afternoon.  The space is fairly small–there are only three stools by the front window–but as it wasn’t crowded when we arrived, we had our coffee there.

The coffee was very good, and the barista could not have been nicer.  The only downside was the music. The volume was louder than we liked, and it increased when someone’s favorite song came on.  But–and important but–after the volume increased the barista asked if the music was too loud for us.  Imagine that?  While we would have preferred if it was lowered, we let it slide as no one else seemed to mind, but we were thrilled that lowering the volume was an option.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Although there is limited seating, the place was busy during our visit as there were a lot of customers who stopped in to get coffees to go.  The weather was particularly pleasant so both the window and front door were open, letting in the not so not bucolic sounds of Bergen Street.  But it wasn’t that bad.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

In the end, we were able to read a book and it appeared that for the others conversation was easy.  Yes, it could be quieter, but it’s not a place to linger and work on your laptop–there’s not enough room for that.  So in the end, the very good coffee and fabulous service tip the scales in favor of a visit. Dot & Line offers a limited menu of sweet and savory treats that appear to be very popular.  If you are in Boerum Hill, we recommend that you check it out.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Saturday: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 3rd Avenue and Nevins Street), Brooklyn, NY 11217

WEBSITE

Dot & Line

 

Clark’s — 73.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Clark’s is a diner in the heart of Brooklyn Heights, located directly across the street from the Clark Street 2/3 subway station. It is almost always bustling, with tables of two, four, or more that cycle in and out quickly.  Clark’s offers the usual diner classics–burgers, sandwiches, salads, and extensive breakfast options–along with chicken, steaks, and seafood entrees.  The food comes out quickly, so the staff are constantly moving.

The main dining area runs the length of the space along a glass wall on the Henry Street side of the building, and the floor is tiled. Despite the presence of hard, reflective materials, the sound level was more than tolerable when we visited during a very busy lunch service. It was noticeably louder when we first entered because the place it was packed and one nearby customer had a particularly loud voice. That can’t be helped and can happen anywhere.  After  she left, the space was almost pleasant.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

When packed the place sounds a bit live as the sound from people talking bounces off the glass, but it is less obvious if the room is only half full. Classical music played softly in the background, and while not necessary, the volume was fine.  Even when the place was full it was at least tolerable.  We think Clark’s is a safe bet if you are looking for a good quick meal in Brooklyn Heights.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 7:00 a.m. to 8:45 p.m.

Sunday: 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (at the corner of Henry Street), Brooklyn, NY 11201

WEBSITE

Clark’s

Szechuan Gourmet — 79.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We visited Szechuan Gourmet for a midweek lunch, arriving slightly before 12:45 p.m.  Surprisingly, we found the vestibule absolutely full.  A large party was waiting for a table, but there were also people waiting for smaller tables and take away orders.  The line moved quickly because there was frequent turnover in the dining room, and we were seated after a ten-minute wait. Our guests had been to Szechuan Gourmet a number of times and remarked that though the place is usually busy at lunch, they never saw it this busy.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

As a result, the decibel reading reflects the incredible turnover the restaurant experienced during out visit, and it did affect the noise level.  We were near the front door, so the meter definitely picked up the chatter and other noise of people moving to and from the dining room and staff shouting orders to each other. That said, the noise level didn’t seem as loud to us as the reading suggests.  Why?  There was no music. The sound was composed of voices and the usual sounds of a busy restaurant.

So despite being dangerously close to 80 decibels, we do not advise that you avoid Szechuan Gourmet. Just recognize that this is not the place you should go to if you want a calm or relaxing meal, but it will be tolerable.  For midtown, you would be hard pressed to find a better moderately priced Chinese restaurant. There’s a reason it’s busy.

HOURS

11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. every day

LOCATION

Street (betw. 5th and 6th Avenue), New York, NY 10018

WEBSITE

Szechuan Gourmet

Dudley’s — 79.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Dudley’s is an attractive Aussie restaurant and bar located in the Lower East Side.  We stopped by for lunch on a Monday and it was packed.  Mondays tend to be a bit less hectic as a rule, so we were surprised.  With the tables all taken, we headed to the bar.

The place has a really nice feel and is aesthetically pleasing (at least we thought so).  There is definitely a low-key vibe about the space, but it also is decked out in hard, unforgiving materials–stainless steel, glass, mirror, and tile.  With two sides of the space consisting of windows and a mirrored bar as the third, it ensures that Dudley’s will be loud most of the time. One potential mitigating factor–emphasis on potential–was the unfinished brick vaulted ceiling.  We have found that vaulted ceilings seem to help in other settings, but are unsure whether it diffused any sound here.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

And there was music, of course. The volume wasn’t awful, but given that the space is essentially a small glass box, it would have been nice if it was lowered or shut off entirely. The end result is that we found it tolerable, barely, at a busy lunch, and we assume the sound quality will be at least the same–if not worse–at brunch and dinner.  It’s a real shame, because if the sound level wasn’t a factor we would highly recommend the place.  The staff was laid back, the food was good, and it had the potential to be a comfortable space.

So it would be best to avoid Dudley’s when there is a crowd and to proceed with caution any other time. Happy hour or other boozy times are likely to be a scream fest, so don’t even think about it.

HOURS

Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Monday through Thursday: 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Bar stays open to 2:00 a.m. every day

LOCATION

Street (betw. x and y), New York, NY 10002

WEBSITE

Dudley’s

Barking Dog — 71.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We visited Barking Dog, a restaurant located on the Upper East Side, for lunch one March afternoon.  It a place peopled by regulars–the neighborhood place for breakfast, a quick lunch, or to have a family meal.  American comfort food prevails and it very nicely executed.  We enjoyed salads, which were very fresh and filling.

Music played in the background during the whole of our visit. It wasn’t that loud, but, as usual, was unnecessary. Still the space wasn’t too live and the reading was perfectly acceptable.

Overall we found the space to be pleasant though it would have been better without the background music.  It wasn’t very crowded during our visit, so it’s hard to estimate what the sound level will be during a busy evening or at brunch.  We assume that it will be tolerable at worse, but proceed with caution at the very busiest times.

HOURS

7:30 a.m. to  10:15 p.m. every day

LOCATION

(at the corner of 77th Street), New York, NY 10075

WEBSITE

Barking Dog

Shopsin’s — 73.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Shopsin’s is a genuine New York City institution.  It’s been around since 1971, though it has had to move twice due to criminal rent increases. The owner, Kenny Shopsin, is famous (or is that infamous?) for being unconventional.  It used to be that if you asked too many questions or otherwise got on his last nerve he would throw you out of his restaurant. But he may have mellowed. To get a flavor of his character and approach to food, you could pick up a copy of his cookbook: Eat Me.

The original Shopsin’s space was on Bedford Street in the West Village.  It kept “interesting” hours, as in no one really knew what the hours were. There were lots of unhappy neighbors when Shopsin’s lost their lease and had to move to Carmine Street.  And then they had to leave Carmine Street. Fortunately, Shopsin’s found space in the Essex Street Market and it feels like a good fit. Yes, the space is much smaller than either of the earliest spaces, but there are  about six small tables and some stools by the counter.  Maybe you’ll have to wait.

Once seated you will be given an odd, rambling menu that reads like a Dr. Bronner’s label–voluminous doesn’t come close.  Seriously, there are 100s of items to choose from, and it’s hard to know where to start.  Order something savory, and a tray with seven hot sauces will be placed on your table.  Because you should have choices.  Prices are interesting, with some items costing more than you would think, others less.  Nothing really makes sense at Shopsin’s, and that’s the point.  It exists to give voice to Kenny Shopsin’s take on life. In fact, he was chatting with a regular when we were there, talking about running a business and how difficult it had become, the decline of work, automation, etc.  It was fascinating and we didn’t feel guilty listening in. (not that we could avoid listening in).

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We tried one of Shopsin’s signature sandwiches called the Jewboy (and yes, there’s a Jewgirl). It was tasty but had hot sauce which wasn’t included in the short description on the menu.  It wasn’t head exploding hot, but tongue tingling at the least.  So if you can’t handle hot sauce, just ask if it’s included in whatever you are ordering.

So what is the sound level like? The soundscape of the place is perfectly fine. The only real sound came from Kenny Shopsin holding court, Shopsin’s staff  making and serving the food, and people entering the market (Shopsin’s is by one of the entrances).  We thought it was comfortable.  During our visit about half the tables were taken at one point, but even if full we think the sound level should be fine.

Shopsin’s is not a typical restaurant.  It’s a one-of-a-kind place worth experiencing if you want to have a taste of what New York City was like and still can be.

HOURS

Sunday: 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

Wednesday through Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (in the Essex Street Market), New York, NY 10002

WEBSITE

Shopsin’s